History of Almond as Food
For many of us, almond may be just a source of lazy munching during free time or a tasty condiment that is used for garnishing various delicacies. None of us have ever thought about its origin or uses. While searching through various literatures, I came across some interesting pieces of Almond history. I'm sharing with you some of these interesting pieces about the journey of Almond as a food item.
The word Almond is derived from the French word "amande," which again is derived from an old Latin word "amygdalus," literally meaning "tonsil plum." Almond belongs to the family of Plum called Prunus dulcis . In earlier times Almonds were also known as “Greek nuts”, because they were first cultivated by the Greeks. The exact origin of Almond is still a major topic of debate as many even believed it to have originated in China and Central Asia.
For many of us the term "ancient" refers to Dinosaurs and Stone ages and almond falls right into that league. Almond finds a prominent reference in Bible too! Almonds were also served as prized ingredients in the breads served to the Egyptian Pharaohs. One of the earliest mentions of using Almond base for traditional Oyster Gravy is found in "Forme of Cury" - a cookbook compiled by the master cooks of King Richard in 1390.
The Chinese are known for their fondness of dairy products. Many dairy products were introduced during the reign of Tang Dynasty in China and Almond Milk was one of them. Towards the end of the 18th century, Almond Milk became an indispensible food luxury equally loved and favored across Europe. A pudding made of almond milk and wheat became a popular desert in the medieval times and was served along with meals of venison.
The French used almond milk for the preparation of the popular dessert - "blancmange," which was an all-white, chilled custard. The British version of blancmange known as blancmanger became more popular in the 14th and 15th centuries. Blancmanger was prepared by blending sugar, rice, shredded chicken breast and almond milk or blenched almonds.
In the 7th century BC, the Arab Traders ventured from Baghdad to establish trade relations with other countries. Over the time, they slowly started settling in different parts of the world. They carried with them smells and taste of their land. And, to keep their food traditions alive they planted almond trees wherever they went because in most of their recipes, Almond served as a base ingredient. In a sense, the Arabs are also credited for popularizing the Almond throughout the world. Slowly, the people of Iberian Peninsula started developing their tastes for delicacies like marzipan and nougat, typical desserts made up of almond.
In the 16th century BC, when the Persians migrated to India, they brought with them various flavors and tastes of their land and amalgamated them with existing ethnic Indian cuisines. The new breed of food culture that resulted from this ethnic amalgamation was known as Muglai Cuisine. Muglai dishes are highly influenced from Persian cooking, which largely makes use of almonds.
Till date, the importance of almonds has refused to wane and throughout the world, almond is perceived as the sacred symbol of wealth, prosperity and fortune.
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